Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Special Feature: The Shaken and the Stirred - Canadian Poets Rock the UK

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Ian Burgham and Catherine Graham at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow

A special post from our friends at the Centre for Creative Learning

Ian Burgham had this idea.

What if he put together a group of Canadian poets, hooked them up with Poet Laureate of Manchester (and captivating performance poet) Mike Garry, and took the show on the road in the UK? Seemed like a good idea at the time.

From October 12 to October 18, 2015, Burgham, along with Catherine Graham, Steven Heighton and Jeanette Lynes, read and gave workshops to crowds of book-loving (and book-buying!) readers in Manchester, London, Stratford, Glasgow and Edinburgh. At every stop, the poets were invited to festivals, to partner with local libraries and universities and to host future workshops for visiting students and writers in Canada.

Now that they’re all back in Canada, we asked three of the poets to share from their travel journals.

Catherine Graham:

“How to sum up an incredible fast-paced experience I’m still processing? Well, I was honoured to be part of The Shaken and the Stirred UK Poetry Tour with colleagues I admire and love to be with: Ian Burgham, Jeanette Lynes, Steven Heighton, Ginger Pharand and our generous, captivating UK host, Mike Garry.

Highlights include our first group reading at the Chorlton Library, such a warm, attentive crowd; reading at University of Westminster’s Fyvie Hall where Pink Floyd played their first gig and being told later that one of the students counted out all her small change as she was determined to purchase my book because she “wanted to get deeper into those words!” Receiving a warm welcome upon our arrival at Stratford-upon-Avon by two Richard Pearsons (father and son) and then treated to a personal tour of both the town and the school where Shakespeare attended where we read to a room full of bright, enthusiastic students; leading a workshop on the short poem in Glasgow at the Mitchell Library (home of the Robert Burns’ collection) to seventeen talented poets from the St. Mungo's Mirrorball poetry group, including organizer Samuel Tongue, all of whom shared fantastic on-the-spot drafts; and then ending our tour that evening tasting whisky and sharing our words at the Scottish Arts Club.

When I recited my poem “The Buried” (inspired by a quote from the Scottish actress Tilda Swinton) I was thrilled when the audience broke into applause.”

Jeanette Lynes:

“In addition to the incomparably good company of my Canadian writer colleagues and the kindness of our UK host Poet virtuoso Mike Garry, it was amazing to be in a pub that existed when John Clare was alive, amazing to sip a pint in a pub where the Bee Gees played billiards, and amazing to stand, with Catherine Graham and Holly Luhning into front of the house where Sylvia Plath first lived. Last but not least, to sip a pint in the Hawley Arms, Amy Winehouse's neighbourhood pub. The students I talked with at University of Westminster were among the nicest students I've ever met. When I win the lottery I’m returning to Affleck's Palace in Manchester — there’s a coat there I fell in love with. “

Steven Heighton:

Well, there was that lewdly drooping hot dog; and I'd thought English pub food was a bit more traditional and dignified than that.

And reading Le Devoir, of all things, on the shoulder of a highway in the English Midlands.

And that brilliant cabbie who carried us--lost, frantically searching for our venue--all of 200 metres up Regent Street while giggling at our idiocy and also congratulating us on having chosen a career path where such witless fuck ups were in the job description (poet=dreamy, clueless).

And Ian's deeply mysterious 200 kg suitcase. (The mystery deepens when Ian cheerfully draws attention to the fact that he's wearing the same shirt almost every day. So what is in the suitcase? Porters and cabbies have to seek immediate physiotherapeutic help after grappling the thing into trunks and onto trains. Steve tries to help once and spends the rest of the train journey moaning and with his right arm in a makeshift sling. Ian sheepishly admits that he had to pay Air Canada excess-weight baggage fees of over $2000 . . . Could the bag contain books? True, audience members are eagerly buying the poets' books, especially Ian's . . . No! The suitcase doesn't contain books, the suitcase is in fact a small, self-contained bookstore, replete with shelves, genre sections, a cash register, knowledgeable and friendly sales help, a coffee shop, a gifts/ cards/beeswax candles nook, a special-order desk, and a small whiskey bar. And the best-stocked poetry shelves on either side of the Atlantic.)

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